This is an article for beginners trying to get more traffic directed at their online content, explaining the basics in white hat link building and what they should make of the terms they encounter online within more advanced articles on the same subject. After clarifying these basic terms, the top white hat link building strategies for 2015 will be described and explained.

White hat link building strategies

There are two ways to get more traffic to your site or blog: by simply posting good content as often as possible and hoping for the best (which is what most site owners do), or by trying to manipulate the odds in your favor through link building. So, the basic distinction should be made between publishing content and link-building. The former is the basic level of activity that derives from owning a site and, while necessary, won’t do much to boost your traffic, in short, an on-site SEO technique, and the latter already qualifies as an off-site SEO (Search Engine Optimization) technique.

Why is Link-building Important?

Link building, at its most broad level, refers to using various strategies in order to create as many links as possible to your site or to a few certain posts of your site. The more links pointing to your content, the more relevant that content is going to be considered by a search engine like Google and beyond, thus appearing higher on the list of results upon a relevant search.

The higher your site’s standing within a search engine, the more traffic will be directed to your site, which is what the final purpose is all about. This makes link building the main priority of webmasters trying to boost their sites and traffic rates.

White-Hat vs. Black Hat

black hat vs white hat

But there are two types of link building to speak of – white hat link building and the black hat link building. The black kind of link building refers to spamming techniques, like shooting links to your site as unrelated comments to other posts and so on. It’s unethical and unprofessional and generally frowned upon (hence the “black” label).

White hat link building strategies are those which help both your site and the general internet environment as well, and this merry-go-round good outcome for everyone is the reason behind the “white label”. It’s pretty straightforward and there are no gray areas, at least not yet, just like with white magic and black magic. This clear classification is a refreshing reason to deem SEO very interesting.

A Short Guide to White Hat SEO

To employ the best of white hat techniques to build more traffic and back links to your site, there are a few basic steps you can follow. Of course, the domain is much more complicated than that, but this link building strategy, in a nutshell, is a good place to start, especially if you’re an SEO beginner. Content creation is a vital part of white hat link building, so it should be incorporated in your strategy.

#1 Identify a Content Gap in your Niche

First of all, identify a content gap in your niche. You can do that in two ways: search a basic topic in your field and analyze the first 10 returns on that topic provided by the search engine, or use an SEO toolkit incorporated in your WordPress account to identify the most searched for keywords on your niche.

Let’s start with the first method. Your niche, or the basic field on which your site provides content about, should have around 10 major topics or the top 10 things that are “in” fashion around this time.

white hat link building google search

No one can suggest these for you or make a definitive list, since you know your niche better than we do and you probably can “feel” these topics intuitively. Take out a piece of paper and note them down on it. You may take a day or two to really think about, or you may replace one line with a new one after some reconsideration, but just build it.

Search Google or Bing or whatever major search engine you’d like for the first topic on your list and inspect the first 10 or 15 results. Carefully read them and try to identify a weak spot: what question do all of these posts not answer properly? Or how could they all be improved? If you think about it enough, especially imagining yourself in the position of the searcher, not the site owner, you’re bound to find something. Voila, you’ve just identified your first content gap in your niche.

#2 Identify Keywords with Specific Tools

The second way to do it is to use the keyword finder in your WordPress account, the SEO section. Just log in to your dashboard, write a post or just enter the New Post page and then scroll down until you find the SEO field (pictured just below in this screenshot, courtesy of Yoast, an SEO plugin which is great, but not required or essential). It will have some bubbles for you to fill in, like a meta description for your post and the keywords you used.

That keyword field is your new goldmine: the suggestions it provides can help you get a better grip on understanding what content the internet needs and does not have yet. As soon as you start typing anything into that field, the SEO plug-in returns some suggestions for you based on those first few letters you type: those suggestions constitute the most searched-for keywords within search engines. You can take your inspiration for finding a suitable topic that could lead you to identify a content gap from here, or through the first method described above. In time, you should learn to combine both ways to help you create better content. For now, let’s move on to the next step.

wordpress yoast seo plugin

Repeat the process for the remaining topics / keywords and then you can prioritize the ideas you come up with. Surely some of them will strike you as more important than others, like “how come nobody thought of this so far?”. You can also use SemRush to identify keywords from competitors, GoogleTrends to write about fresh topics and Google Adwords to find profitable long-tail keyword phrases that advertisers are interested in. After you obtain a shortlist of 3-4 such topics, create a good and preferably long post for the first one. Think of delivering the best content possible, to fill the gap you noticed in the niche. The better your content on an uncovered topic, the more chances you’ll get of ranking well. After writing and improving the piece until you’re satisfied with it, publish it and you can consider his first stage completed. It’s time to move on to stage two:

Think of delivering the best content possible, to fill the gap you noticed in the niche. The better your content on an uncovered topic, the more chances you’ll get of ranking well. After writing and improving the piece until you’re satisfied with it, publish it and you can consider his first stage completed. It’s time to move on to stage two: building as many back links to this content as possible.

These back links and traffic will be generated to your site in two ways: first, through the quality of the piece itself and because of the fact that it correctly fills the content gap which you’ve previously noticed. But as many bloggers and web masters are probably already aware, the quality of the post itself is usually not enough to generate the traffic you want. Therefore, this second stage of doctoring the traffic returns is needed. You need to make sure as many different people and sites link to your new post. Thus, it’s time to move on to a more advanced stage of SEO: link building. There are a few ways to start:

link building email outreach white hat

  • Just reach out. There’s nothing wrong with good old honest asking for help with something, especially if your post is truly helpful to the niche and thus deserving of the help you’re asking. Email as many people as possible who are already established voices within your niche and gently ask them to pass on the news about your post, stressing that your post helps with these a, b and c (insert reasons here) issues. Keep your emails short and to the point. Even if only a fraction of them respond positively, it will still be worth it and may generate a huge amount of links and traffic to your post.

error a ninja stole this page

  • Find broken links and suggest your post as a replacement. This may seem a bit hard, but don’t worry, you’ll get the knack for it in no time. A broken link means a link somewhere on a well-established page in your niche that doesn’t lead to anything anymore. As people are linking to various things in their posts over time, sometimes, especially after a while, the link may become broken, when the page it points to no longer exists online. Find these broken links and write an email to the site’s owner, kindly reporting the glitch and suggesting your own epic post as a replacement for that broken link.

It’s a win-win situation: they get their site improved by eliminating broken links and you get a nice back link from an established hub in your niche. (More on how to identify more broken links that simply by browsing will be detailed later within this guide, in the next post.). You can identify broken links with tools such as ScreamingFrog, Xenu LinkSleuth or Ahrefs. You can also use the waybackmachine tool to see what type of content was on the page before it was deleted. We have already covered the Broken Link Building strategy in more detail here.

xenu sitecrawl tool screenshot

A screenshot of the Xenu site crawl tool.

  • Promote your post through less direct contact techniques. When you see an opportunity to promote your site, take it. That means you can leave a comment to other posts linking to your post (but only if the comment is on-topic and sufficiently humble, otherwise it counts as spamming and it annoys people more than it can convince them to visit your site) or submit your post for reviews, contests, online galas or parades or a certain topic and so on. Please take extra care not to come off as spammy, as that could ruin the good name of your site or even get you reported. And this is totally not what white hat link building is all about. J

Now that we’ve got the basic ground level things explained, it’s time to move on to what the experts nominate as the best techniques for link building today, besides the general ones presented above.

Top White Hat Link Building Strategies for 2015

Here are the most highly valued ways of building an organic pool of back links to your content in a sustainable way.

resource list screenshot

Resource List example courtesy of LifeHack.org

  • Create resource lists. Make a page or two on your site/blog that just organizes in a coherent and smart way all of the best online resources in your niche. This kind of a list would then be valuable to everyone active in the same niche, but since it takes some time and effort to make and since it would already be available on your site, there’s a great chance other bloggers or webmasters will just link to your page rather than making a similar list themselves. It’s useful and has a great sharing potential compared to a simple post. As a bonus, the pages you’re listing as a resource might provide you with a back link as well.
  • Cover some fresh news. If you manage to be the first site or blog that comments on a news story or event, you’re made. At least for a while, many other sites will link to your page and you can ride this wave of increased traffic in a way that will generate more links on the long run. Keep an eye out for such fresh coverage opportunities and take them as soon as you see them.
  • Write a long review. Do another site or brand in the niche the favor of writing them a long and comprehensive review. It can also be a book review or any kind of post that discusses in detail something created by someone else. This will be useful for people interested in the thing you’re reviewing, and thus generate more traffic for you, and it may also earn you a return of the favor from the author of your reviewed product. Even if it doesn’t get you a similar piece featuring you back, it’s still useful content.

most popular visuals infographics

  • Create memes or funny stories with a strong visual component. SEO expert Corey Eridon says this is the kind of content that content makers should remember to create, as reports indicate that people are becoming more and more visual. Your own intuition can probably confirm this. Just think about it: what are those posts that go viral on social networks all about? Point made, right? Brush up on your Photoshop skills or even use a pre-made meme stock photo; just fill it in with a smart inside joke from your industry or niche as a way of illustrating the point which your post is trying to make.
  • Reach out to the media; get interviewed if you can. Whenever you have a post or a story that you think could interest some journalists covering your niche, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and let them know about it. The same goes for those resource pages talked about above. It wouldn’t hurt if you could even establish some previous relations with them, like asking for a bit more info regarding one of their stories and so on. If you feel comfortable enough at some point with a few of them and think they are interested on what you have to say as one of your niche’s actors, you could directly say that you would be open to giving them an interview at any time. It’s a great way to boost your traffic and become more known in the niche.
  • If you have a brand, monitor the mentions of it online. Each time a site or a blog post mentions your brand in a way that could benefit from a link to your site, try reaching out to them and suggesting it. Make sure you’re only doing it when it would really benefit the site as well, or when they’re already quoting some of your resources, otherwise there is the risk that you could come off as spammy or desperate for attention and you don’t want that.

the social web infographic

  • Make your stories easy to share. This is done by making sure your content is straight-to-the-point, easy to read (but not too simple, necessarily) and maybe even funny a bit (if the topic is appropriate to use in a funny way). Also, a very important detail is to install widgets that insert buttons at the end of each post, to make it easy to share on a variety of social media hubs (Facebook, Twitter and so on). Don’t forget to share the post yourself on all these hubs: every little opportunity to promote it should not be ignored, as every last bit of exposure counts. SEO expert Alex Cleanthous advises everyone to share great content authored by others too on one’s social media hubs: that not only indicates a fair play spirit, but can also generate back links from those other blogs/sites as well.

sean bean meme get to the top of google

Remember: it may seem like harder work to build links than to simply write a new post, but it’s the most important part of SEO work. No matter how good your post is, you can’t expect a rise in traffic without some good link building. Also, don’t expect immediate results. As the meme above suggests, one does not simply get to the top of Google search results just like that.

It takes work, but it will be a rewarded work, we promise. The good news is that while a good post only generates a traffic boost while it’s new, some good link building work will continue to generate traffic for a long time after you do it, too. After you start applying some of these top white hat link building strategies for 2015 described above, you may expect to see some results as fast as a few weeks though. Good luck and stay tuned for the next SEO lesson for beginners.

Extra Resources: White Hat SEO, Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin, Inbound Links with White Hat SEO, 14 WhiteHat LinkBuilding Strategies.